Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.
Full disclosure: I have not seen many of these titles, and what follows are not necessarily reviews, but opinions based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations are based on my personal interest. In any case, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something you like or a title to point me towards.
Iron Maiden: Flight 666. I actually saw a little bit of this documentary on the Palladia music station the other night. I decided to look it up and discovered the DVD is coming out this week with even more live footage! How can I say no to that? The release covers the band's massive world tour of 2008, which saw it playing a set comprised of pre-1990 songs (save for the staple "Fear of the Dark"). I saw the band in New Jersey on the first leg of the tour (and covered on this DVD). There there is one song from that show here, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I saw them on the second leg as well at Madison Square Garden. How can I not get a DVD documenting a tour that I actually got to see? The fact that it is Iron Maiden is just icing on the cake. The Blu-ray will not be readily available until July, but Best Buy will have it this week.
Gran Torino (also Blu-ray). This is a film filled with great moments that have a cumulative effect. It may not be the most realistic approach to the material, but it feels genuine, and the cast of primarily non-professional actors do a fine job supporting Clint Eastwood. The story speaks to the effects of violence, living with regret, and how people of apparently different backgrounds can have more in common than one would suspect. We are also given some insight into the Hmong immigrants, their background and customs. Definitely a great film and one worth having in the collection.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Director's Cut (also Blu-ray). I am not sure I have ever seen this movie, or need to fill that void. If I remember correctly, this is the film that Charlton Heston watched and memorized in Omega Man. This release marks he fortieth anniversary of the film and the concert. It will be available in multiple formats, and both Amazon and Target have exclusives. So, if you are interested, I recommend you do a little research prior to buying. Also, some of the music has reportedly been recently over-dubbed as musicians that performed have been called into the studio, all in an effort to make the release sound as good as possible.
The International (also Blu-ray). As a thriller, this movie succeeds. It moves along at a brisk pace and blinds you with exposition sleight of hand to keep you a little off guard. It does fizzle a bit towards the end, but it is well worth spending some time with, even if only for the Guggenheim sequence. Director Tom Tykwer has a good visual style, unfortunately, it is wasted here. It is definitely worth a rental, but you may want to think twice before adding it to your collection.
Reaper: Season Two. Sadly cancelled after two seasons, this supernatural comedy is quite entertaining. At times it does feel a little formulaic, but they change it up often enough to keep the story interesting. Beyond that, the cast is always on point with nice comic timing and some off-the-wall deliveries. Frankly, I am surprised the show made it to a second season. Not that I am complaining, mind you.
WWE: Macho Madness – The Randy Savage Ultimate Collection. "Snap into a Slim Jim, Ooooh Yeah!" You have got to love the over-the-top flamboyance of the '80s wrestling star. However, it is more than antics and theatrics that Savage brought to the table; he also brought skill. The man could go and fly with the best of them. This set collects much of what made Savage so good. I look forward to checking this out at some point.
Predator 2 (Blu-ray). Among this week's class of catalog titles is Predator 2, the much maligned sequel to the Arnold classic. Trade Arnold for Danny Glover and the jungle for Los Angeles and the setting is ready. It is fun, but nowhere near great. Still, it should be fun to watch in high definition.
Fired Up! (also Blu-ray). Despite the utterly generic plot, the movie is still worth checking out. If you are in the mood for some funny one-liners, surprisingly decent comic timing, and a tale that won't tax your brain, this is the flick for you. Fired Up! takes some cues from Judd Apatow's raunch-with-a-heart comedies, yet tempers them with something a bit safer for a wide audience. They filmmakers get pretty close, but forget the key ingredient that would have helped push it towards being truly worthy of your time: heart. This movie has none.
Nobel Son (also Blu-ray). This crime caper sees the son of a Nobel prize winner kidnapped with the goal of extorting money from the good doctor. However, there is an ulterior motive revealed as the plot progresses. The plot plays out sort of like a low-rent Quentin Tarantino caper. There were stretches of whizzing and zipping cuts and sounds where I was just bored. I had no reason to care about any of these people, and the ones I wanted to learn more about did not get the time. Alan Rickman and Eliza Dushku were the two I wanted more time with. Rickman is incredible as the self-absorbed chemist; you truly want to despise him, yet also want to spend more time with him, see what makes him tick. As for Eliza Dushku, well it's Eliza Dushku… that and her character is a little odd, a little weird, and completely compelling. In the end, I just don't care. Co-writer/directer Randall Miller and writer Jody Savin deliver a story that wants to be flashy and hip, but ends up being limp and dull. Oh well.